Michael Wood | 1 February 2013
Why do projects fail? Problems can manifest from anywhere, but there are several elements of a project that if managed poorly could mean that the project may fail to deliver
If the people at the top are not supportive this will severely hamper or even stop the project delivering. Clear job descriptions from an executive can often reduce the chances of this happening.
If phrases such as "easy to use", "state of the art" or "best of breed" have sneaked their way into the requirements, they will be virtually impossible to prove. Project managers should view ambiguity as their worst enemy, and strive for clarity.
Unrealistic timescales or budgets
Too often the customer/sponsor asks for the impossible, but a project will take as long as it will take. As Henry Ford said - better, faster, cheaper, pick one!
This describes the phenomenon where changes mount up to slowly push the product away from its original design. Clear documentation and a robust change control mechanism are vital if this is to be avoided.
Poor risk management
If you analyse the situation before proceeding you may be able to identify potential problems and work around them before they even happen.
If you don't follow processes and document events and requirements properly, do not be surprised if things do not happen the way you want them to.
Good project managers don't guess! Use historical information, formulae, and lots of questions to make sure that your estimating is not GUESStimating.
Poor communication/stakeholder engagement
People tend to fear what they don't know, so it is always the case that a bit of communication about what is going to happen will go a long way. Communication with stakeholders is vital if the project is to capture their imagination, and keep it.
Poor business case
A good business case will clearly demonstrate the business benefit of delivering a project and so will allow the project team to sell the project to the business, and constantly monitor whether the project continues to remain a good idea during the project.
Inadequate/incorrectly skilled resources
Having people who are ill-prepared to complete a task can be worse than not having anyone. To give yourself the best chance of getting the resources, be clear about what you need and when you need it
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